The New York Jets have just finished one of the most up and down, inconsistent half seasons in recent football history. At 4-4, they have exceeded expectations to an extent but the manner of their four losses has taken some of the luster off their .500 record. Before the season, I picked the Jets to be a 7-9 team and still wouldn’t be surprised if they finished with that record however I do think they have a look of being a game or two better than that considering their second half schedule.
The Jets have offensive and secondary deficiencies that will be difficult to overcome. They need to improve their turnover ratio and create more big plays on both sides of the ball to help mask their problems. While winning is always the primary objective, this is a critical eight game stretch for many of the team’s young players and new acquisitions to show their long term viability.
First and foremost, Geno Smith needs to have a better final 8 games than his first 8 games, if he achieves that, he will be starting on opening day in 2014. If he takes a big step back, the Jets are going to have interesting decisions to make this off-season when approaching the draft and free agency.
Elsewhere on the offense, Stephen Hill’s role could be further diminished when Santonio Holmes returns but if he doesn’t show any tangible progress, he may not be a major factor in the team’s long term plans at wide receiver. I’m not saying they’ll cut the guy but he could easily find himself behind Jeremy Kerley-FA Signing X-Early Round Draft Pick X and David Nelson on the depth chart next season. I don’t think Santonio Holmes is likely to be back next year but a strong finish and reasonable contract demands could change that. At running back, neither Chris Ivory or Bilal Powell has looked like a true lead back at this point. Ivory is the more talented of the two but he needs to make a few a big plays or the Jets could aggressively look to upgrade the position this off-season. At tight end, it will be interesting to see if Zach Sudfeld can make a case to be a long term piece here.
On the offensive line, Austin Howard is playing for a contract extension which he has earned so far while D’Brickashaw Ferguson could be playing his way into a pay-cut. It would be nice to see Brian Winters improve as well and truly lock down the starting job at Guard for 2014. If Willie Colon plays the last eight games, the way he played the first eight games….he’s likely to get a new contract from the Jets.
On defense, if Antonio Cromartie doesn’t improve, he is a likely cap casualty. Dee Milliner will keep getting chances and keep getting burned for the foreseeable future. Let’s hope he fights through it and shows some type of improvement in November and December. Antonio Allen is making a strong case for being a 2014 starter at safety but needs to remain consistent. Muhammad WIlkerson has already earned his monster new contract. Quinton Coples had a brutal first half but came on strong late last season, maybe he’ll replicate that this season. Either way, the Jets still badly need to address the edge rusher position next year.
If the Jets sneak into the playoffs with a 9-7 record, it will be a pleasant and exciting surprise. It shouldn’t be expected but at a minimum the Jets should be playing relevant football in December for the fifth time in Rex Ryan’s five years here.
How will they start out their second half? We turn to the 12 Pack for answers….
1. Drew Brees will throw for 325 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. He will be sacked three times.
2. Kenny Stills will beat the Jets (likely Dee Milliner) deep for a long touchdown.
3. Jimmy Graham will have 85 yards receiving and a touchdown.
4. Darren Sproles will have 90 offensive yards and a touchdown.
5. Lance Moore will convert a few big third down conversions working against Kyle Wilson in the slot.
6. Geno Smith will have a strong overall game, finishing with 260 yards passing, two touchdowns, 40 yards rushing and only one turnover.
7. Chris Ivory will be the Jets leading rusher and score his first touchdown of the season.
8. Zach Sudfeld will have at least 40 yards receiving.
9. Nick Folk will continue his perfect season, knocking through 2 more field goals.
10. Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson will both have 4+ receptions.
11. Josh Cribbs will bring out one kick return past the 50 yard line.
12. The Jets will cover the 6.5 point spread but lose, 31-27, heading into the bye week at 4-5.